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29 September 2011

Lichtenegger: Joint Interim Committee on School Accreditation

My work at the Capitol this interim includes the Joint Interim Committee on School Accreditation. Our meeting yesterday included public testimony from individuals, the Children’s Education Council of Missouri (CECM) and the CDS Cooperating School Districts (St. Louis based). As many of you know the St. Louis and Kansas City School Districts have lost their accreditation, and six others in different state regions have been given one year to produce recognizable improvement in order to retain accreditation. According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), school districts receive accreditation classification after the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) performs its reviews. The MSIP webpages summarize more of this review process.

Unaccredited schools have two full school years to prove sustainable academic progress; if they are unsuccessful the State Board of Education will intervene. To help you understand more about school district accreditation, link here for information from DESE: FAQ's regarding school accreditation. And you can read The 2011 Annual Performance Report to determine a particular school district’s progress or digress. This report also compares multi-annual scores, so that you can identify performance trends.

When a school district’s classification digresses to unaccredited, it creates a significant issue for parents and students of those districts. State statues allow for students to transfer to a neighboring accredited school district, but according to the CECM this law apparently is not being enforced. The House interim committee is exploring one of many issues related to school accreditation, including how to transition students of an unaccredited school to an accredited one. As legislators our job is not to oversee the accreditation review process –that’s not broken, but rather to find solutions for those students who want to attend an accredited school. Stop for a moment and consider all the educational entities that play a role in a school district’s overall performance. It involves not just teachers, parents and students, but also district superintendents and school board members who make effective decisions concerning everything from curriculum to classroom discipline. This demonstrates that it is the public at large who share responsibility to ensure that the schools perform to produce the best educational outcome for each student. This should be every community member’s priority –whether or not you have school aged children- since that shapes the present and determines the future of our communities. Every school district is vulnerable to losing their accreditation without support from the entire community.

My Capitol office will be closed October 4 through the 17. If you have an emergency please call me: 573-979-1084.

Constituent Corner

October is Disability Awareness Month – Cape Girardeau has established October 3-7 as Disability Awareness Week, so I have prepared a State resolution for Jackson R-2 Parent Partnership Council in recognition of the event and what some communities are planning as a result. Below is a message from the bill’s (HB 555) sponsor, Representative Jeff Grisamore, describing a resource designed for this important social & educational designation:

Disability History and Awareness Month: A Resource Guide for Missouri is a 100 page guide designed to assist K-12 schools in developing curriculum, special events and programming during the month of October, which 555 designates—in part—as Disability History and Awareness Month.

This excellent resource was developed and adapted from similar resource guides in Kansas and Florida. This guide contains helpful resources for curriculum integration with differentiated instruction across grade levels, sample resolutions, bios of both Missourians and Americans with disabilities throughout history, classroom activity ideas, disability etiquette and respectful language—and much more.

The release of this new disabilities resource provides an opportunity to promote Disabilities History and Awareness Month. I would encourage you to join with us in promoting this breakthrough resource that can have a transformational impact in our K-12 schools and the positive impact it will have on Missouri students with disabilities. –Rep. Jeff Grisamore, Dist. 47

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